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Declares that the year-on-year, inflation-busting increases in Council Tax are causing hardship to many and take no account of ability to pay; further that the current property revaluation and re-banding exercise will make an already flawed system even worse.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons vote to replace Council Tax with a fair and equitable tax that, without recourse to any supplementary benefit, takes into account ability to pay from disposable income. Such tax to be based on a system that is free from any geographically or politically motivated discrimination, and that clearly identifies the fiscal and managerial responsibilities of all involved parties.
Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to address the House on what I consider to be a major problem within Britain's drinking culture, a view that I think is shared by many hon. Members on both sides of the House.
In Milton Keynes, we are only too aware of the dangers of glass bottles and glasses. In the early hours of last Christmas morning, one of my constituents, Blake Golding, was the victim of a brutal bottle attack while working as a doorman. At just 22 years of age, he was scarred for life while going to the aid of a colleague. That terrible incident could have been prevented if the attacker had not had access to a glass bottle. The terrifying fact is that bars and clubs have extremely dangerous weapons at arm's reach. A glass or bottle can be used by anyone to cause a great deal of harm to another individual.
On 14 June 2005, a campaign was set up by Blake's family and as a result 12,000 people, including hundreds of police officers, have signed a petition calling for a Government ban on glass drinking vessels in all late-night clubs and bars. The success of the campaign is testament to the determination of the Golding family and the support shown by our local newspaper, the Milton Keynes Citizen and Three Counties Radio. I hope to be able to increase awareness of the issue today, and to gain further support for such a change.
Unfortunately, this problem has remained largely unaddressed by successive Governments, yet we are talking about a readily available weapon that can cause much harm, as Blake's case has shown. In fact, glasses and bottles are the most common weapons used in violent assaults in the United Kingdom, which is no wonder when we consider how many drinks are served in glass containers. In the UK, over 5.6 billion pints of beer are served in bars, pubs and clubs a year, nearly 6.8 million bottles of beer, 4.2 million bottles of alcopops and 313,000 bottles of wine.
The risk associated with drinking glasses and bottles is being highlighted, but it takes cases such as Blake's to increase support for the proposed ban. Bar Mee in Milton Keynes became the first pub in the area to serve drinks solely in sturdy plastic glasses and bottles in a bid to reduce the horrifying number of bottle attacks. Milton Keynes council is proposing a motion to amend its licensing policy regarding this issue. It is also worth acknowledging the policy of Yates's bars nationwide, which already use shatter-proof plastic glass. We need to make that the case in all bars and clubs across the country.
The night-time entertainment districts of many towns and cities are expanding. Although that has economic benefits, it can be accompanied by an increase in crime and disorder because of the high concentration of pubs and clubs. Research shows that there is a link between alcohol consumption and violent behavior. A study by the Prime Minister's strategy unit suggests that 1.2 million incidents of alcohol-induced violence are reported every year.
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According to the 200102 British crime survey, in 47 per cent. of all violent incidents, the victim described the assailant as being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault. Furthermore, 38 per cent. of stranger violence and 23 per cent. of acquaintance violence occurred in or around a pub or a club.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and congratulate him on securing a debate on such an important issue. He will know that in the adjacent constituency of Wellingborough, this is a huge issue, too. Does he agree that parents have two main concerns when their nearly adult children go off perhaps to Northampton on a Friday night to attend a club? They are worried first, about their children being in a car accident, and secondly, that they might be assaulted by some drunken yob in a club and come back home with dreadful injuries.
Mr. Lancaster: My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Our constituencies neighbour each other and his constituents go not only to Northampton, but to Milton Keynes. I thank my hon. Friend for his valuable point.
More than half of all incidents of alcohol-related violence result in some form of injury. In a fifth of incidents, the perpetrator had a weapon that he threatened to useusually a glass or a bottle. Figures obtained for Manchester show that one person is seriously wounded by a bottle every fortnight. Toughened glass is now being introduced in bars and clubs and serious assaults have fallen by up to 50 per cent.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate and I have great sympathy with what he is saying. May I draw his attention to the good work done by AMECthe Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaignin Cardiff, and particularly to the work of my constituent, Professor John Shepherd, who works in the dental school at the Heath hospital and has campaigned for many years for the prevention of glass injury in pubs and clubs? He has succeeded in reducing the number of serious accident and emergency cases. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that recent proposals in Cardiff to compel some pubs and clubs to use plastic glasses after 11 pm and to introduce bottle banks in the citygetting the glass off the streetsrepresent a step forward that will further reduce the number of injuries in Cardiff?
Mr. Lancaster: I agree with the hon. Lady, who makes a very good point. The work of Professor Shepherd is well known to me, as I believe that he has proposed a British standard for toughened glass. I would certainly welcome that measure.
In Glasgow city centre in 2003, there were 313 serious assaults, 81 of which involved glass bottles. Of those, 69 involved people being struck on the head with a bottle. Those are hugely worrying statistics and if we take account of the number of drinks served every year, we have to accept that if someone wants to act in a violent manner, one of the many bottles or glasses that are close to hand will be an easy choice of weapon. If those bottles and glasses were replaced with plastic, they would not be able to cause the damage that they do.
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Plastic bottles and glasses would allow for a safer drinking and social environment and a change to plastic could also lessen insurance premiums for pubs and clubs, as well as provide a safer working environment for bar staff to operate inthough those are just small benefits in comparison with the opportunity to save lives and prevent serious injuries.
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